Warm Beach to launch trauma-informed, equine therapy for Tulalip youth

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Warm Beach is well-known as the home of The Lights of Christmas, a popular holiday festival featuring dazzling light displays. Not as commonly known, however, is the fact Warm Beach has one of Snohomish County’s largest horse herds offering year-long equestrian programs. The dedicated staff of Warm Beach’s equestrian program are currently developing a trauma-informed therapy course designed specifically for Tulalip foster children. The first-of-its-kind course is anticipated to debut in September.

The inspiration for a tribal specific version of equine therapy came about after Rebecca Black (Quinault), who’s been raising two Tulalip children for four years now, participated in a parent/child camp with horses at Warm Beach. While there she couldn’t help but wonder how much more impactful the camp could be if it were designed for tribal youth and geared towards healing historical traumas.

“I grew up around horses and, being in an abusive foster care system as a young teen myself, there were literally times where the horses saved my life,” shared Rebecca, now a licensed foster care provider. “I wanted my two boys and other tribal youth to experience the healing that horses make possible. It’s so important that we intercede at a younger age because the health outcomes in our communities, especially for our kids in foster care, can really change.”

Rebecca met with Warm Beach executive staff and engaged in a series of productive meetings regarding a camp that not only establishes a working relationship with Tulalip, but also would break down barriers of opportunity for tribal youth. Months’ worth of meetings and cultural education led to an application to the Tulalip Charitable Table and a subsequent grant award to develop a prototype version of equine therapy for Tulalip foster children. 

Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman, Teri Gobin

On the morning of April 25, representatives from Warm Beach Horsemanship met with Chairwoman Teri Gobin, Board of Director Mel Sheldon, and Charitable Contributions Director Marilyn Sheldon to thank them all in culturally appropriate way for the grant funds making the innovative therapy course possible. A brief introduction of what’s to come and how the children will benefit was also detailed.

“Our intent is to use the grant to run a three day trauma-informed, therapeutic program that will cater to serving eight Tulalip children currently in foster care,” explained Lisa Tremain, Horsemanship Director at Warm Beach Camp. “Through the use of horses we’ll be doing activities both mounted and on the ground that help walk the children through various stages of their healing journey. Building relationships, trust and confidence are critical pieces to the healing process that equine therapy offers.” 

“In a therapeutic and safe environment, horses provide unique nonverbal feedback that can facilitate social, physical and cognitive skill development in people of all ages,” added Ginger Reitz, Therapeutic Horsemanship Coordinator.

Tulalip Tribes Board of Director, Mel Sheldon

Two therapeutic horses, Mirage and Cameo, wore ‘Lightening Horse’ blankets courtesy of Eighth Generation. After making their introductions with everyone in attendance, the horses’ blankets were used to wrap Board members Teri and Mel. 

“Our hands go up to you all for your good work,” stated Chairwoman Gobin. “We understand how important work like this is to help people, especially our children, heal from their own personal traumas. It’s often not easy to speak about, but it’s essential if we’re to move forward in a good way.”

Keep drugs off our Rez: Youth participate in drug prevention walk

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States recorded 42,249 deaths in the year of 2016 due to opioid overdose, surpassing the amount of deaths caused by breast cancer which is estimated at 41,070 each year. Between July 2016 and September 2017, the amount of deaths by opioid overdose increased by thirty percent. The opioid epidemic is still escalating throughout the nation and has claimed more American lives in 2017 alone than the Vietnam War, which reported 58,220 causalities over the course of twenty years. Although the CDC has yet to officially release the 2017 statistics, the projected amount of deaths by heroin, prescription opioids and fentanyl is said to be close to 70,000 fatalities. 

The crisis is hard to ignore, especially when it’s happening within our own community. The Washington State Department of Health reports that approximately 3,000 deaths can be credited to drug overdose annually, which is thirty-one percent of all deaths statewide. Snohomish County, namely the Everett-Marysville-Tulalip area, sees perhaps one of the largest amounts of drug-related casualties in the state with around seven hundred deaths per year. 

Over recent years, the Tulalip Tribes has fought back strongly against the opioid epidemic, implementing several programs, departments, forums, and events as well as the wellness court system. The tribe has been actively dedicated to healing their people who are battling with addiction and continue searching for a solution to the crisis. Most recently, during the mid-morning of July 26, the Tulalip 477/TANF department organized a walk against drugs with their Summer Youth Community Service program, comprised of thirty local kids between the ages of eleven and thirteen who wanted to spread awareness for those struggling and help bring an end to drug addiction. 

“We worked on our signs all day yesterday, just for the walk today,” says community service participant, Stanley Nguyen. “We walked from the old school all the way up to [the Tulalip Administration Building] and we’re trying to stop drug abuse and get drugs off the rez because they can kill people.”

Drivers emphatically honked their horns for the kids as they proudly displayed their handmade posters during the prevention walk. Their signs displayed a variety of strong messages such as ‘your family needs you’ and ‘heal the hurt, don’t hide the pain,’ attempting to spread their words to local addicts. A few kids also used their signs to urge any drug distributors to ‘stop selling drugs to my people’ and to ‘keep drugs off our rez!’

“My sign says, drugs equal death so stop!” expressed young Taleen Enick. “I felt people needed to know to stop doing drugs, it can harm them and they can probably die from it. If they keep doing it, they can overdose. That’s why I want people to know we need to keep drugs off our rez and that we need to help our people to stop doing drugs.”

The six-week community service program helps kids prepare for the Tulalip Youth Services Summer Youth Employment Program which is open to kids between the age of fourteen and eighteen. Throughout the community service course, the young adults learn about their treaty rights, Tulalip’s history and future, bullying prevention, suicide prevention, drug and alcohol prevention, healthy habits and financial education. The program is currently in its second year and dedicates every Thursday to a community service activity such as beach clean-ups and the prevention walk.

“There’s a lot of people driving by, hopefully it gives addicts some hope that live around here,” says TANF Case Manager, Danielle Hill. “The kids all created their own posters and a lot of them had some good words to share. We’re hoping this helps them steer clear from drugs and alcohol in the future especially when they’re dealing with peer pressure.”

The kids ended the prevention walk at the newly constructed walkway below the Tulalip Admin Building and held their posters up high for passersby to see while on their daily commute. The youth posted up through the lunch hour, waiving their signs and received great response from the tribal employees on their way to appease their appetites. 

 “I think our message will help people, I really do,” says Taleen. “If they see our signs today, maybe they’ll be inspired to reach out and help somebody they know who’s been using drugs. What I liked best about today was all the people honking. That shows that they care as well and are doing their part to help out too.”

Screenagers sheds light on the impact of youth’s increased screen time

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Raising youth in our technologically advanced society is a challenge for most caregivers technologywho struggle to understand the effects and how to set limits on their children’s screen time. Today’s youth are the first to be raised in the age of the smartphone, and its influence can be felt everywhere.

Smartphones, video games, and digital media have created new headaches for many families. Concepts like sexting, online bullying, video game addiction, and obsessive social media attachment have become common practice among today’s youth. Behaviors as these can often lead to disruptions in school and sleep, anti-social behavior, and depression. For parents and caregivers, the question of how to even begin addressing these concepts with their children seems like a daunting task.

In this context, Tulalip Youth Services invited youth and their parents to participate in a discussion of the topic and view the award-winning film, Screenagers: Growing Up in The Digital Age, on the evening of September 19. Screenagers is the first feature documentary to explore the impact of screen technology on kids and to offer parents proven solutions that work.

“Parents should always take the time to talk to their kids about the risks of technology, especially social media and using technology appropriately,” stated Teri Nelson, Youth Services Executive Director. “There are some great uses in the digital age that provide opportunities to learn and be creative, but with everything there needs to be moderation. I feel big concerns for our youth are online safety, privacy and reputation management with social media. One bad decision to post something inappropriate can have long-lasting, damaging effects.”

During the film’s screening there were 32 youth in attendance, plus several caregivers and Youth Services staff members.

Screenagers provided an in-depth, personal look at how families are coping with kids and screen time, the plot explored how being connected to devices is affecting relationships and even child development. Directed by Dalaney Ruston, a Seattle filmmaker and physician, the movie profiles her own family’s struggles with smart phones, social media, and video games. The film includes interviews with parents, teenagers, authors, psychologists and neuroscientists providing ideas on how we can empower ourselves to best navigate this digital world we live in.

Throughout the film, children and their parents are shown dealing with often serious consequences related to excessive screen time, or screen time without boundaries. Revealing stories that depict messy struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction are shared.

A boy who lives with his grandmother becomes a “different child” when told he has to get off his video games. The grandmother seeks help for dealing with the confrontations.

Another boy, Andrew, is so consumed with playing video games into the wee hours during his freshman year of college that he stops going to classes and leaves school. He enters a rehabilitation facility to treat his addiction.

A girl with a love of photography spends most of her time in her room posing and taking pictures of herself to nurture a social identity aimed at getting “likes.”

Another girl, Hannah, shares a picture of herself in her bra with a boy she likes. When he shares the picture, the girl deals with the fallout at school and being bullied.

It’s not just the kids scrolling Facebook or Instagram or blasting away on the PlayStation that demand the attention of the filmmakers. Adults connected to work and their own social outlets through devices are called out by the very kids who they are attempting to digitally police.

“Can we really tell our kids, ‘Do as we say and not as we do’?” the film asks.

Interwoven into these stories, are cutting edge science and insights from thought leaders who present evidence on the real changes happening in the brain. For example, we are led to believe that through technology we can multitask. However, the truth is our brains aren’t built to multitask. We’re meant to focus on one thing at a time. Switching what’s on our screen from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter and inevitably back to Facebook , that back-and-forth raises levels of the hormone cortisol in our brains. Cortisol is the hormone produced when we are stressed. On top of that, every time you refresh any of your social media feeds, the brief burst of news or images gives you a quick dopamine hit, which activates the brain’s pleasure centers and leaves you wanting more. It’s a destructive cycle that can lead to addiction and an inability to stay unplugged and offline.

While our digital lifestyle is certainly not going anywhere, it’s critical to find a healthy balance between screen time and real-world interactions. In most cases, this means putting realistic restrictions on screen time for children and their parents.

Among community viewers at the film screening was tribal member Nickie Richwine and her three daughters. Following the movie, Nickie shared she already places restrictions on when and how her daughters can use their devices, but has learned additional methods of staying offline from the film.

“My girls are 15, 11 and 8-years-old. I took them all to see Screenagers because as a parent I believe that technology and electronic overuse prevents them from developing social skills that they’ll need as they become young adults,” says Nickie. “Face-to-face interaction is necessary to build healthy relationships with their peers. Texting and IM’ing is no substitute. My kids struggle to understand why I limit their screen time, but one of the main reasons I do is to protect them. Kids don’t understand the internet has a lot of dangers and potentially harmful exposures. I was hopeful that this film would help them understand that.”

Dexter Smith, 8th grader and junior rep for Tulalip Youth Council, was also present for the film and recognized some of his own behavior when it comes to video games. Dexter said he can get too caught up in video games and become angry, especially when he loses. He says he is going to work on that and adds, “I think people my age are on their phones too much when they could be enjoying the outdoors. My advice to youth out here is to stay off of inappropriate sites and not make posts hurtful to others.”

Two young ladies, who wished to remain anonymous, shared, “It’s become way easier to text someone than it is to have a conversation in person. We’re so attached to our phones that we don’t even realize we’re addicted to them. People are controlled by their phones and social media accounts, kids and adults. Even in school kids are constantly posting and updating through their phones during class. It’s a distraction from their education.”

Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, and delves into the messy family conflicts over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction. Only through self-reflection and an open dialogue do solutions emerge on how we can best empower young people to navigate the digital world. More information can be found at screenagersmovie.com.


The doctor’s prescription for limiting screen time

  • Dr. Ruston suggests putting phones and other devices away at meal times, in the car and during family outings.
  • While studying, teenagers should put their phones in another room but can take “tech breaks”.
  • No phones, tablets or other devices in the bedroom when it’s time to sleep.
  • Rather than relying on your phone, buy an alarm clock and a calculator.
  • Limit interactive video games to certain times – the weekend, for example – especially for younger children.
  • Try what a group of teenagers do in the film: when they eat out, they put their phones in the middle of the table. First to check their phone pays for dinner.
  • Set aside regular time to calmly discuss any issues about mobile phones and other devices rather than letting them spark arguments.
  • Parents worried about their children’s screen usage should think about what they are doing themselves.

Football University: technique by position

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

During the hottest weekend of the year, the mid-80 degree days of May 27 and 28, six inspiring athletes from Tulalip were having their athletic prowess put to the test at Football University’s two-day camp. Hosted at Eastside Catholic School, located in Sammamish, the intense football skills camp delivered by the heralded Football University provided an intense, no-nonsense offseason training experience for 200+ student-athletes.

Among that pack of talented athletes were Tulalip’s own Shoshone Hollen, Noah Fryberg, Arnold Reeves, Quinton Yon-Wagner, and brothers Jeremiah and Jacob Diaz. All eager and ready to become better players, Football University was their primary destination for the best coaching from a staff of NFL-experienced coaches.

Since 2007, Football University has seen 40,000 student-athletes improve on the field and in the film room, learning position-specific techniques and fundamentals from the best and brightest. Promising prospects from grades 6-12 learn how to be better football players at a FBU camp, unlocking their potentials and eventually playing at the highest levels in high school, college, and the NFL.

“We believe every football player, at least once in their football lifetimes, should be coached by someone with NFL-level experience,” says Eric Medeiros, Pacific Northwest Scout for FBU. “Every single one of our FBU coaches possess a true passion for teaching elite technique to the younger generation. The fundamentals all FBU athletes learn are the same being practiced at all 32 NFL minicamps and in the film rooms of all 32 NFL teams, the same techniques on display every Sunday in the fall.”

Football University is built on the truth that technique plus talent beats talent alone. A truth the Tulalip youth learned by experience, as they were led by coaches and scouts in a variety of drills and trainings on the scorching hot gridiron. The camp tested their mental and physical football ability on the field and in the film room with an intense curriculum of technique training and film study.

It is a proven belief that the competitive difference-maker at high levels of football is technique. Every weekend in the fall, positional battles are won on the field with superior technique.

For their impressive showing at the camp, Noah, Shoshone, Quinton, and one of the Diaz brothers were recipients of a very exclusive FBU Top Gun Showcase invite.

“It was a privilege being by their side at this FBU Combine Camp. I see these young men every day here at the Teen Center working hard in the weight room, practicing drills outside on the field, and just pushing themselves every day to improve themselves,” says Lonnie Enick, Youth Services Activities Specialist. “I’m glad they got this one-of-a-kind experience because they benefited big time. I’m so proud of them all!”

Promoting overall wellness for our youth

Article by Micheal Rios; photos by Micheal Rios and courtesy of Sarah Sense-Wilson

Promoting the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of today’s youth, especially teenagers, is largely a labor of love. It’s difficult enough getting them to give their social media accounts a break, put their cellphones away, and actually focus on educational activities, let alone holding their attention long enough to get them to interact in a group setting. Yet, it is in the commitment to our youth, to their well-being and personal growth that brings about positive changes in lifestyle, relationships, and overall wellness.

Enter the Tulalip Tribes 5th Annual Wellness Conference and its dedicated day, May 16, to promoting overall wellness to our community’s youth.

“Our youth flourish when provided guidance, tools, resources, and encouragement. They thrive when we set good examples of self-care, and live by example. Our individual and collective actions are always far more meaningful and impactful when we are embracing challenges, and having an open mind for learning and taking the time to nurture healthy relationships,” eloquently states Sarah Sense-Wilson, Wellness Conference Coordinator. “I believe our conference really embodies these values and the presenters and workshop leaders exemplify traditional and cultural values we want our children and youth to follow.”

Approximately 90 students from Heritage High School, Marysville-Pilchuck High School, Totem Middle School, and Marysville Middle School were shuttled to the event hosted within the Tulalip Resort Casino’s Orca ballroom. The adolescent youth were treated to a large and healthy buffet-style breakfast after filling out their registration cards and putting on a name tag. As they settled in keynote speaker Layha Spoonhunter (Eastern Shoshone, Northern Arapaho, Oglala Lakota) took center stage.

Layha is a youth consultant, motivational speaker, Two Spirit Native citizen, and vocal advocate for Two Spirit people. He provided honest, open and engaging discussion on LGBTQI (a common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersexed community), Two Spirit, and Allyship advocacy.

Layha describes Two Spirit as a “person who has both masculine and feminine identities.” He says it is a spiritual term that encompasses Native culture, language and history. His expertise and experience as a youth spokesperson and advocate for Native youth empowerment bridges differences and strengthens relationships among groups of community members. Layha offered his story as an example for other young LGBTQI and Two Spirit individuals to express themselves and embrace their identities.

“Build an environment of fairness and openness within your community. Stand up against stereotypes and racism. Stand up against bigotry and discrimination,” resounded Layha to his largely youth audience. “Take pride in your identity and use it to make positive change.”

Following the keynote address, the youth were given the choice of three interactive and experiential based workshops to attend. The three diverse workshop presenters were specifically chosen for their ability to reach our Native youth in a variety of ways.

Credentialed Native American mental health specialist and award-winning artist LisaNa Red Bear offered her workshop attendees the opportunity to create a mural art project. Participants engaged in three experiential learning art exercises that support a better understanding of complications associated with smoking. The hands-on creative art project was a hit, as the Native youth’s artistic abilities shined.

“We see an amazing level of creativity expressed by youth who engage in artistic activities. When they allow themselves to imagine and sit still long enough to allow that creativity to flow through them, the results can be awe-inspiring,” reflects LisaNa on the impact of her art mural workshop. “Young people have creativity inside them, innately, and it just depends on whether or not it’s nurtured or repressed.”

Grammy award-winning artist Star Nayea led a Project R.I.S.E Up workshop. She empowered the youth to create video vision statements that involved creating handheld signage decorated with personalized cultural artwork. Participants then took turns filming their own P.S.A. style videos. Star’s unique ability to reach youth and engage them in expressing their ideas, thoughts and feelings led to some amazing video production both individually and collectively. The youth offered messages of hope, vision and inspiration for believing in yourself and living a drug free life.

“Kids just want to know that we, as adults and teachers, are legit. They want to know that we are there for all the right reasons, that we care about them, and that they can thrive from the knowledge and experience we offer,” says Star. “It’s so important for their voices to be heard and for their faces to be seen as they speak the words. It’s one thing to have thoughts and a whole other thing to rise up and share those thoughts, to inspire. In making the P.S.A. videos they help to inspire one another and their community.”

The third workshop option was called In the Spirit of the Story. The tradition of storytelling is a way of passing down, teaching vital lessons, and of course entertainment with a purpose. Gene Tagaban (Tlingit) is an incredibly skillful, knowledgeable and talented storyteller who led this workshop. Using story as a medium for empowerment and self-expression, Gene connected with participants in a deep and meaningful way which transcends all generational differences. The power of storytelling was illuminated through his interactive workshop as a tool for teaching, healing and growing.

“Offering our youth a range of different interactive workshops was intentional and purposeful. We are always wanting to reach our youth for supporting their interests and appeal to their generational issues,” explains Sarah on the importance of workshop variety when working with youth. “Community wellness requires positive action, not passive existence. Some have to work harder because we are up against more barriers, walls, and obstacles. Nonetheless, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our youth, and our community to strive to do better and be better.”

Concluding the youth wellness day was a very special Native Hoop Dance

performance by Tulalip tribal member Terry Goedell. Several youth were brave enough to join Terry on stage and receive a tutorial on hoop dancing basics.

There’s a popular saying in Native communities, “be careful in the decisions we make today as they will impact the 7th generation – our grandchildren’s grandchildren, grandchildren.” Respect for this wisdom continues to guide events like the annual Wellness Conference, where a commitment to preparing Native youth for a brighter future is on full display.

Art of the Future Generation

Tulalip Youth Services hosts Annual Native American Student Art Festival

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Excitement filled the air of the Don Hatch Youth Center, which was briefly transformed into an art gala, on April 20, for the annual Native American Student Art Festival. Various works were on display including poetry, self and family portraits as well as an array of traditional Native American art including paddles, blankets, beaded regalia and cedar woven baskets.

The festival is open to all Tulalip tribal members between kindergarten and the twelfth grade, as well as students of other tribal nations who attend the Marysville School District. Students are able to submit one art project for each category – culture, mixed media, painting, sculpture, digital art, writing, new media and drawing. Awards are presented for first, second and third place, as well as for honorable mentions, to each grade for every category.

Art has been an essential necessity to the Native American culture since time immemorial. Coast Salish ancestors utilized their natural resources to create art such as masks, blankets, drums and rattles for ceremonial purposes; as well as for tools, for everyday use, like hats, baskets, canoes and paddles.

With over a whopping one thousand art submissions this year, the event continues to provide the young Indigenous Picassos with the opportunity to express their creativity and showcase their talents to their community. Often participants will submit a project for each category, like Taylee Warbus, who was awarded six ribbons in total – three of them being the highly coveted first place blue ribbon.

10th grade student Selena Fryberg reconnects with her ancestry while drawing a portrait of her late grandmother Catherine Rivera.

Many students reconnect with their culture while preparing their projects for the festival. This year, tenth grade student and multiple prizewinner Selena Fryberg reconnected with her ancestry while drawing a portrait of her late grandmother Catherine Rivera. Selena states, “She passed away before I was born, but people always say I get my talent from her. I feel like I got to know my grandma a little better while drawing her for [the art festival].”

If you missed the opportunity to experience the student art exhibit, don’t fret because the winning masterpieces will be on display exclusively at the Hibulb Cultural Center until Friday May 5, 2017.

Youth Perspectives: Suicide

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Talking to adolescents and teens about sensitive issues can be a daunting task, let alone trying to start a conversation about youth suicide. However, it is of vital importance that the conversation be had and the youth allowed to speak freely on the subject. It’s imperative there be no judgement, no pressure, and no expectation. The goal is to create a comfortable space where conversation flows naturally. During these times the youth can be very enlightening and provide insight to a topic we may not have considered before.

Over a period of weeks, this comfortable space where conversation could flow freely was created with several Tulalip youth who are highly vested in their community. These are youth who range in age from 8th grade to recent high school graduates, with the majority being current high schoolers. It was made clear that their perspective on suicide would remain anonymous and be contributed to a collaboration article with several of their peers. The focus of conversation was on the recent coverage and response to community suicides over the last few months, their thoughts on what leads Native youth to contemplate suicide, and what they feel would be effective programs and developments to prevent teen suicide.



“As Native youth, we have endured so much loss and pain when it comes to losing family members or close friends or even just stress within our family. We are still suffering from the impacts of the genocide to our ancestors. Even today, almost on a daily basis the outside world still tries to strip us of what’s left of our culture. We’re like 50 years behind on education, we are more prone to addiction, alcoholism and using drugs. Let the youth know that we don’t have to continue that cycle. We can break those cycles of being addicts and uneducated. We can focus more on education, sports, and being culturally and community oriented.”


“Often partying is glorified. We should try to have more programs to go against all the things considered cool to do as a high school students. The underage drinking, smoking, ditching school, and things like that. We need prevention programs that actually speak to us, keep us busy, and focused on what’s really important. Let’s teach the youth to aspire to something greater…than just being on the Rez living paycheck to paycheck.”


“When you’re a teen you think it’s cool to look older or act older or do adult things, but you’re still just a kid. You’re still in high school. Why not learn to be a cool kid but in different ways? We try so hard to fit in but really in the world after high school its cooler to stand out.”


“There are definitely cycles that have been created. We all know and are told everything about suicide. We’ve seen the statistics that show we are more likely than other cultures to commit suicide. We know that’s there. Even when you’re in the moment, you know that’s going to be passed on, you’re going to become another statistic, but it still happens anyway. It’s hard to get out of that thinking that life just isn’t worth it anymore. Creating programs that help us to aspire, to know that whatever it is we’re going through doesn’t have to define us, that this isn’t the end of our journey, but the beginning, is critical to us breaking those cycles.”


“There’s a program at Behavioral Health that’s so amazing, but not a lot of people know about it. They offer counseling, someone for you to talk to about anything. Even if it’s something as simple as wanting to voice your thoughts they’ll listen. It’s located in the old Montessori building. They offer transportation so they can pick you up from school, will take you to appointments if your parents can’t. This program is so readily available, you just have to take the first step of reaching out to them.”


“I have cousins whose parents try to deny the fact they need help, that they have depression, and are suicidal. They need help from people who can support them and help them with what they are thinking and feeling, but their parents want to push it all under the rug. That doesn’t help anyone. It’s that old style of thinking that some of our parents still have and we need help breaking that cycle, too.”


“There’s a slippery slope that comes when discussing overdoses and deaths related to drugs and alcohol. Suicides is a part of that. The lines get blurred when it comes to a teenager who is driving drunk or high, crashes, and dies as a result. To some that’s considered not a suicide, but to others it is. Sometimes those of us closer to the situation know the true intent even if people want to deny it. If we count some of the drug and alcohol related deaths as suicides then that statistic for Tulalip looks a lot worse.”


“We hear a lot about generational trauma and the importance of our culture. After Jaylen, there were a lot of outsiders brought in and our space was no longer ours. In a way the response to bring in those outside professionals triggered more trauma in us. What do they know about our generation? What do they know about our culture? It’s hard enough for us to talk about sensitive subjects with family and friends. How were we expected to talk about these subjects and our thoughts and feelings with people we never seen before and didn’t know? It happened again after Dontae. It’s hard to talk about sensitive issues with strangers. Bringing outsiders to our spaces isn’t effective and doesn’t help us to heal.”


“When they had people who we didn’t know posted at the Teen Center it’s like you guys are messing with somewhere we feel safe, where we feel like we don’t have to be afraid or sad. Having those people there made some of us be elsewhere because we go to the Teen Center to be comfortable around our friends, not to be judged by people who don’t know us. It’s our safe haven and for that time we weren’t allowed to feel safe there.”


“I think that people find comfort in those they know and are familiar with. Starting our own teen support group is a good start. We want a place to talk about our feelings with people who understand what we’re going through. If you’re feeling suicidal or feeling like you don’t have anywhere else to go, then a peer-to-peer support group would be there for you.”


“Over the last couple months, since Dontae, there has been an increase in teens attempting suicide. I know of four or five attempts and that most likely isn’t all that have tried. I know a lot of people who feel so lonely and have suicidal thoughts, but there’s nothing I can do to help them. It’s hard because our youth are so stubborn. Trying to help someone is really hard if they don’t want to be helped. So we, as a community, need to work together on finding out what the emptiness is and how we can fill it.”


“A lot of why we are so apart as a community is we’ve lost so much of our culture. We are so disconnected from values are ancestors had. We really need to push our culture, like to an extreme extent to make up for all that we’ve lost. We hear so much talk on the importance of family and community, but it seems we are more divided than ever. Families vs. families, old feuds, and people fighting over who gets what. It’s like we need to learn to be a true community again. At the end of the day, all of us are Tulalip family.”


“There are so many of us who don’t even know who their family is because everyone is so caught up in their own day to day life. The support that should be there isn’t and we don’t know who to turn to. It’s sad. That’s where the loneliness comes from.”


“It’s interesting that when threatened by outsiders our people band together like no other. The tribal mentality and need to protect one another is super strong then. So why don’t we have that mentality all the time? Something that has stuck with me is at a community potluck put together by Natosha Gobin and Malory Simpson, it was geared towards the youth but a lot of families came together, and they said we should come together in the good times, not only the bad times like funerals. I think there should be more of a push to go to community potlucks, community gatherings, and having the youth get together. We find comfort talking to people that we know. Having events or community dinners where the youth can come and have a good time then our parents would be able to catch up with their friends, too.”


“We know the odds are against us. It’s up to us to work against these stats and cycles we hear so much about. Suicides, lack of education, alcoholism, addiction…all these things are working against us, all the percentages are negatively in our favor. We can’t just get stuck in what we know, we have to be open to what we don’t know. We have all this possibility in front of us and in our future. Why not try to turn that possibility into something positive? There’s so much more out there for us than just the stats and cycles. There’s a whole world of possibility out there, beyond this Rez. It’s up to us to realize that and not be afraid to journey on our own path. We decide what our story will be.”

Next Generation Biddy Ball



By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Tulalip hosted its quarterly biddy ball tournament on Sunday, March 20 at the Greg Williams court located within the Don Hatch Youth Center. The event was open to all kids ages 3-5 and 6-7 years old.

The Tulalip biddy ball program caters to the youngest generation of aspiring hoopers. It features lower nets, a shortened court, and is for young children who are just learning to play the game of basketball.

“It’s a popular sport in our community,” Deyamonta Diaz, Youth Activity Specialist, said following the day’s event. “We’re getting more and more people bringing their children out to learn and play biddy ball. There’s no previous experience necessary. We give them a fundamental style 5-on-5 game so they can learn how to play on a team .”

Biddy ball is really an instructional program setup for children of all level of experience to enjoy. There’s a lot of running around, basic skill sets, and learning the fundamentals of dribbling and shooting a set shot. During one session, the kids practiced drippling back and forth with then their dominant hand, then switched to dribbling with their other hand. While during another session they worked almost entirely on footwork.

The program at one point drew an estimated 50-60 kids. All the kids received a free t-shirt with ‘Next Generation Biddy Ball’ written across it.




Josh Fryberg, Youth Services Activities Coordinator, concluded the basketball-filled event by commenting, “Tulalip biddy basketball turned out great. Thank you everyone that showed up, especially the kids. All of us at Youth Services would like to continue to bring our community together in a good way. Because our biddy ball participation continues to grow we will expand our program so we are having biddy basketball once a month, the 3rd Sunday of each month from 12:00-3:00 p.m.”

Be on the lookout for more information on Tulalip’s biddy ball program in future issues of the syəcəb newspaper and on our Tulalip News Facebook page. If you have any questions or concerns call Tulalip Youth Services at (360) 716-4909.




Stand together, build together Your Voice. Your community.

GONA web


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 


February 25-27, the Tulalip Tribes hosted their very own Gathering of Native Americans (GONA) at the Don Hatch Youth Center. Our three-day GONA was an event inspired to bring our community together to work on creating a vision for a healthy community.

Tulalip was fortunate to be nominated as one of the eight tribes in the United States by the Indian Health Service to serve as a Community Partnership grantee. As a grantee, Tulalip received the materials and resources necessary to undergo an intense community training and technical assistance that became our GONA.

GONA is for Native Americans and others who want to become change agents, community developers, and leaders. The four parts of GONA (Belonging, Mastery, Interdependence, and Generosity) incorporate the values of four levels of human growth and responsibility that are found in Native cultures.

Based on several ideas:

  • Community healing is necessary for substance abuse prevention;
  • Healthy traditions in our community are key to effective prevention;
  • The holistic approach to wellness is a traditional part of our belief systems;
  • Every community member is of value in empowering the community; and
  • GONA is a safe place to share, heal, and plan for action.

The three-day event focused on increasing the strengths of Native youth and community, healing the past and building the future. Over the last few years, countless GONAs have been held all over North America. Thousands of Native people from hundreds of tribes with their friends, families, and communities have experienced the powerful, culturally-centered training and resources GONA offers.

Through the four components of Belonging, Mastery, Interdependence, and Generosity we start to examine how to be an active participant in our own life and in creating a healthy community.




Belonging. Day 1 of Tulalip’s GONA started off by building and strengthening the sense of team, family and community. A place for all ages, a place for all kinds of people. The first day represents infancy and childhood, a time when we need to know how we belong. It is the most important first lesson a person must learn to live comfortable and to work effectively.

Mastery. After dinner, day 1 moved to the component of gaining mastery and healing from what holds us back. Empowerment, for the individual and community. This second stage honors adolescence as a time of vision and mastery. Understanding our Tulalip communities and the local contexts that inform work in partnership with other tribes/communities/governments.

Interdependence. Day 2 was dedicated to working together interdependently for positive change. A day of action and community leadership. The third stage is symbolized by adults, integral and interdepending within their families and communities. How do we interconnect with our environment and social network of our community?

Generosity. Day 3, the final day of our GONA was all about giving back to self and community. The final stage honors our elders, who give their knowledge and teaching to our generations of the future. Looking at our responsibilities to give back to our communities and share graciously.

During each day, GONA attendees participated in various team breakout activities, heard and told stories integral to our culture, and helped to create individual affirmations and community goals.




Storytelling is traditional for Native peoples. Oral histories and legends were used to transmit knowledge, teachings, and values from one generation to the next. During GONA, storytelling was used to convey the same teachings as we heard, valued, and respected everyone’s contributions while establishing a foundation for a community-wide prevention plan.

The group and team activities were all exercises that demonstrated the core components and helped participants identify some of the rituals or ceremonies from Tulalip culture that have helped our community to remain healthy and in balance. The activities also provided everyone with the opportunity to embrace wellness while recognizing the importance of traditional healing practices.



 Contact Micheal Rios: mrios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Damen Bell-Holter, First Haida NBA Player, Is Tackling Youth Suicides

Boston Celtics Media Day



By Chris Taylor, Huffington Post 


Damen Bell-Holter is used to making headlines, as the first member of the Haida Nation to ever step on an NBA floor.

Now the 25-year-old, 6’9″ gentle giant, a former member of the Boston Celtics, is making headlines of a different kind. Bell-Holter, now playing professionally overseas in Finland, is speaking out about the issue of youth suicides, which have plagued First Nations communities.

I sat down with him to find out why the issue touches home for him — and how he is taking action.

CT: Why has youth suicide become a signature issue for you?

DBH: Growing up in Hydaburg, Alaska, it was a big problem. My home life wasn’t ideal, with alcoholism and abuse and all those things. I had cousins who committed suicide. When you’re in a town that small, with only around 300 people, almost everyone’s family has been through it. It seemed like there was a suicide every year.

CT: What’s going on, and why is this happening?

DBH: When you’re stuck in small communities, that’s all you can see. You don’t really have big hopes for the future. I was extremely fortunate because I had basketball as an outlet, which was huge for me. But if you don’t have an outlet like that, there’s a lot of negativity in these small towns. And all it takes is one moment of weakness and struggle.

CT: What have you decided to do about it?

DBH: Since my sophomore year in college, I’ve been holding basketball camps for kids every single year. My goal was to give back and work with kids, and since I started doing that, I discovered what a big issue youth suicide is in so many communities. It’s a real pattern.

As a result, about 60-70 per cent of the time in my camps doesn’t even involve basketball. I talk to kids about domestic violence, about alcohol abuse, about drugs. I’ve done over 40 of these camps over the last few years, all the way from Alaska, to Haida Gwaii, to mainland B.C., to reservations in lower 48 states like Washington, Oregon and Utah.

CT: Why is it so important for First Nations kids to hear from you?

DBH: Kids in these small communities are really stubborn. If someone from the lower 48 states is talking to them, they just think, ‘You don’t know what we go through.’ But when I come and talk to them about my home-life growing up, then they realize, ‘Hey, that’s my story too.’

CT: Losing young people in this way is particularly heartbreaking. What would you say to communities going through this?

DBH: The biggest thing is to keep kids involved. Demonstrate a lot of positivity, make sure kids are coming to the gym, keep them active, and show them that you care. Some communities, like Skidegate on Haida Gwaii, are really great at that.

CT: To kids who are in a dark place right now, what would you say to them?

DBH: Your home-life doesn’t have to dictate your future and how you feel about yourself. Suicide doesn’t have to be an option. Everyone has struggles: I had thoughts of suicide when I was a kid, too. I thought there was nothing better for me out there. But if I had taken my own life, I would have affected my family and my community for generations to come. I wouldn’t be here sharing my story right now.

CT: How has the response been to your youth camps?

DBH: The great thing about native communities is that when someone does something special, everyone really comes together to support them. I’ve had so much support from Haida Gwaii, and towns like Skidegate and Masset, with people telling me they’re proud of me. Hopefully I’ll have an effect on these kids, even just a few of them, because here I am — Haida from a small Alaska town of 300 — and I’ve seen the highest levels of basketball in the world, doing things I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do.